Two main points that came up that I want to discuss:
1. 'We are more wicked than we could possibly imagine but more loved than we could have ever dreamed'.
Now the more loved bit I can cope with, but the more wicked bit I'm struggling with.
I believe we are all sinners and that we have all fallen short of the glory of God. I believe that the gravity of sin is seen at the Cross of Jesus. I believe that Jesus died for the sins of the world. But does these lead us to conclude that we are more wicked than we could possible imagine? Or that the consequences of sin are more terrible than we could imagine?
I believe we are all capable of great wickedness and that sin can lay at our door ready to consume us, but are we defined by our wickedness or by our goodness? Put another way, does God see us as wicked or as good? Are we wicked with a dose of goodness or are we created good and distorted by sin? Are we not created in God's image and therefore seen as 'good' by God but because of sin we are capable of great wickedness?
I suppose I'm asking the question, where is our starting point when we are seeking a theology of humanity?
2. 'Better than you deserve'. Another point was that whatever we are going through in our lives it is better than we deserve. In other words, because we deserve hell but have been saved by God, anything that we go through in this life is better than what we deserve.
I just wonder how that would sound to those who experience hell on earth. How does that sound to the mother who has lost her baby to disease or to the husband who's wife has been killed in a car crash or to those caught up in wars and disasters.
I want to ask the only 2 theological questions that we need 'What kind of God?' and 'So what?'.
What kind of God is being believed in here and what are the implications for believing in this God? To me it sounds like a schizophrenic God who says 'I love you/I want to punish you/stop moaning about your suffering, it's better than hell.' This then leads me onto a theology of hell and what it is because this again begs the question of 'what kind of God?'
If hell is a place of eternal torment then the above theology fits (better than we deserve) and if hell is a place of eternal fire and torment then how does that fit with cross of Christ?
The Cross says that the Kingdom of God does not come with violence and coercion, but comes through suffering and sacrifice. Yet a traditional conservative view of hell and the atonement says that actually God will still get his way and inflict pain and torment and punishment on those whom he supposedly loves.
The human soul is not immortal in the sense that its immortality is given by God. Therefore, if hell is a place of eternal torment then God willingly allows those in hell to be tormented for eternity on the basis of some finite sin. This is not justice. Would God really do to those whom he loves that which humanity would not do to their worst enemies? Admittedly our understanding of justice is flawed by sin, but what kind of God is this? It's a God a would not want to follow. Does not this view of God and the vision of God revealed through Christ sit opposed to each other? Surely God's justice is way above our own, defined by his love.
The person of Jesus and His work on the Cross is one of suffering and sacrifice to reveal the love and forgiveness of God. God could have forgiven us without the Cross. The Cross was not needed for God to forgive us. It was the consequences of our sin that needed to be dealt with (death, decay etc). This is why penal substitution sits so uneasy with me. It means that God asks of us something he is unable to do. God says 'forgive'. PS says that God can't forgive unless he punishes someone in our place. That's like God saying to you 'Go and forgive your neighbour and then go kick the cat'.
I realise that on Sunday hell was not really spoken about and penal substitution was not explored, but I suspect the traditional conservative view of the cross and hell were at the foundation of what was being said. Please do not see this as a attack on the person, it is a concern with certain streams of doctrine.
I am still trying to work through my own understandings of anthropology, ontology, theology of the Cross etc so apologies if the above seems a bit disjointed.